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Victims of Slater Fire open new lawsuit against PacifiCorp

Erik Neumann
JPR News
A portion of the Slater Fire footprint outside of Happy Camp, CA.

The victims of the 2020 Slater Fire are suing the utility company that started the blaze. That’s after a tree allegedly hit a PacifiCorp power line and sparked the fire.

The fire killed two people and damaged or destroyed 700 properties in counties along the Oregon-California border. The lawsuit announced on Wednesday is being filed by the law firm Singleton Schrieber on behalf of 42 plaintiffs.

Gerald Singleton, an attorney on the case, says that they are representing over 100 individuals.

“These run the gamut from homeowners who lost their home and everything they own to renters who had the place that they rented burn down so they lost everything they owned in the world, all their personal possessions. To people who owned land and had that land destroyed,” Singleton says.

PacifiCorp could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit alleges that the electric utility failed to maintain proper vegetation management to protect their power lines. Singleton says that it appears that the Slater Fire began when a tree made contact with the utility company’s power line.

“When you have properly designed, maintained and inspected powerlines, there should never be a tree that comes into contact with it,” he says.

In the days prior to the fire, the National Weather Service issued warnings about 50 mile per hour winds hitting the area. Some other utilities deenergized their power lines, but PacifiCorp did not, according to the lawsuit.

This is Singleton Schrieber’s second lawsuit against PacifiCorp in relation to the Slater Fire.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.